Doing the whole Caribbean in one year is really barely possible and certainly not enjoyable. Primary reason is the 5 mos you need to hide below the Storm belt region.
- - Doing the eastern half or western half is more realistic. However, the western half has an additional problem with early and late storm season - June to Nov. The eastern half storm season is historically mid Aug to start of Nov.
- - November is rather chilly in the Bahamas and can be downright cold and blowy. Not a problem if just passing through and heading further down island. You will get great warm days mixed with blustery cold days as fronts sweep off the SE US coastline. However, November has one major plus working for it for heading down island - in or around mid-November the fronts overpower the trades and you get a week or two of westerly winds instead of the normal winds always from the east. Great time to be heading eastward.
- - There are the two main routes: I-66 direct from the US east coast
heading out to sea in an easterly or ene direction to hold some westerly component winds until you get to around west 66 degree longitude then hang a right and head south to the Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands. Past history
of this route is about a one week to two weeks at sea with the likely chance of at least one good blow (gail type conditions) along the route.
- - The other route is island hopping down the Bahamas to Turks and Caicos
; then Luperon and Samana, D.R. then Puerto Rico
and harbor hoping along the south coast until you get into the Spanish Virgins and the US and Brit Virgins. Depending upon how much you want to stop along the way you are looking at about one to 3 months to get to the Virgins. Weather
windows and fun stops along the way make the difference in times. The sailing from the Bahamas along this route to the east coast of Puerto Rico
can be nasty or benign depending upon your weather
karma and how long you are willing to wait for a very good weather window. Normally the really good weather windows happen about every 5 to 7 frontal passages with short weather windows happening more frequently. Normally by the time you get to the east coast of Puerto Rico you will have earned your mythical - I am a real cruiser medal. There is normally some serious crashing and bashing along the route.
- - By now it is somewhere in Feb which is great because you have 5 months to do the dozen or so islands on down to Grenada
or Trinidad. There are no really serious passages if you just go from one island to the next. Except for the Anegada Passage
all the legs can be done in day-hops. If you have a fast motoring boat even the Anegada
can be done in a long day hop.
- - Just about every island is worth some serious stopping and exploring so you burn up weeks and months quickly. Usually you end up having to bypass some great little places to keep on schedule to be in Grenada
by early August. But Mother Nature does what Mother Nature wants and her past record
of no serious storms until mid-August in the eastern Caribbean
could change - just for you.
- - Now you have August to the start of November to spend exploring Grenada and if you want Trinidad - or heading west to the ABC's. In November you can retrace your steps back up the islands picking up the ones you skipped over on the way down and maybe re-visiting some favorites. With only one day stops or so and hussling you might get back to the US east coast in a month but two months is more realistic. And the further north you go the worse the winter weather will be along the US east coast. One reason to hurry on the way north.
- - Alternatively, if you go to the ABC islands you can cross north to Puerto Rico or the Virgins in 4-5 days at sea and then continue back to the US from there.
- - I have done the down and back in 14 months with a lot of hurrying but I sure missed a lot. Average for being able to spend some quality time in the eastern Caribbean
seems to be 2 to 4 years. Of course you can store the boat each summer season, fly home and back in the winter to continue on. Somewhere about year 6 you are really ready to move on to a different region of the world or settle down in one island semi-permanently.